Java and Madura


In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Java and Madura is Number 82 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Java was the most populous island in what was then the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia). Madura is a small island located off the northeast coast of Java. The book includes sections on physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. It notes that the estimated population of Java and Madura in 1912 was just over 36 million, making these islands among the most densely populated places in the world. The study traces the growth of Dutch influence on the islands, beginning with the opening of trade relations in 1598, followed by the establishment of the Netherlands East India Company in 1602 and struggles with the sultan of Mataram and rival British colonialists for control. It stresses the cruel and exploitative nature of the system of statutory labor imposed by the Dutch, aimed at extracting profits, primarily from agriculture. Considerable attention is paid to the novel Max Havelaar (1860), written by a former official in the Dutch East Indian civil service, which exposed a system of compulsory labor that the study characterizes as tantamount to slavery. The novel led to reforms but by no means ended the exploitation of native laborers. The main crops grown in Java and Madura at this time included cassava, grains, rice, cinchona (used in making quinine), coffee, cocoa, rubber, and spices.

Last updated: September 5, 2014